Photo and Story by: Barbara Lee
The “Home of Champions” is what Hard Times Billiards in Bellflower, CA is all about . They more than lived up to their name this last weekend during the $5000 added Open 10 Ball Open! Gracing the tables at this event were none other than the likes of Shane Van Boening, Francisco “Django” Bustamante, Rodney “The Rocket” Morris, Raj Hundal, Oscar Dominguez, Dennis Orcollo, Louis Ulrich, Kenichi Uchigaki, Ernesto Dominguez, Scott Frost, Max Eberle, Santos Sambajon, John Morra, Rafael Martinez, Manny Chau and many more, representing some of the top ranking players in the world.
A packed house was treated to match after match of these elite players, with standing room only at this great venue. And bringing this event to the world at large for free, was POV Pool who streamed the entire 3 day showcase with special guest commentators Jay Helfert, Author of “Pool Wars”, BCA Hall Of Fame inductee, Robin Dodson, Raj Hundal, Beau Runningen, John Morra, WPBA Player – Barbara Lee, $20,000 “Ball-Breakers“ winner Lisa Just, Kamui products sponsor John Bertone, Senior Poker Hall Of Famer and inventor of the “Omaha” Poker game, Robert “ChipBurner” Turner and Crown Games Inc.’s CEO and inventor of Poker Pool, George Emery.
The event kicked off on Friday, May 4th at 12pm with tournament direction supplied by house pro at Hard Times, Dave Hemmah, Marielle Lim, and Sam Kim, all who did a seamless, well timed, and expertly run tournament. Owner Eddie Arreguin graciously supplied the $5000 added money as the host for this 3rd annual event and his entire staff worked feverishly long hours to accommodate the stellar player field. The 10-ball format was standard BCA rules, double elimination race to 9 for both brackets, winner break, with the Magic Rack as the official rack of the tournament.
A starting field of 64 duked it out on Friday to cut the field in half, and by Saturday night, the final 8 were left standing amongst some of the toughest competition in the world. Of note during the event was the infamous “devil table” coined by POV Pool commentators for it’s notoriously tight 4 inch pockets and tendency to “eject” balls from the efforts of even the top crust of the playing fields. Francisco Bustamante said “This IS the toughest table I have EVER played on – EVER!” That said, there were not too many who had the opportunity for break and run’s to chalk up multiple packs against their opponents.
Early upsets on Friday, and more eliminations to come Saturday were Oscar Dominguez, Francisco Bustamante, Louis Ulrich, Santos Sanbajon Jr.,and Rafael Martinez. Still standing after two grueling days of tough competition were Shane Van Boening, Manny Chau, Corey Harper, “Mad” Max Eberle, Dennis Orcollo, Rodney “The Rocket” Morris, Scott Frost and 2011’s 2nd place winner of the 2nd Hard Times 10-Ball – Kenichi Uchigaki who all began the final battles at noon on Sunday.
Some of the interesting highlights during this event included the fact that many had migrated down from the California Billiard Club recent 5 day, two tournament event in which Bustamante had claimed BOTH titles in One-Pocket and 10-Ball. Many were expecting a possible “triple crown” with Busty coming off these wins with swagger in tow, but early upsets sent him off to Vegas for the ‘CSI Open’ events after finishing 9-12th at Hard Times. Also, the “Rocket” Rodney Morris was seen limping somewhat around the tables due to a recent minor leg injury in Mountain View shortly after the West Coast Challenge event. But that didn’t slow down the Rocket much, who ended up taking $500 for 5th place. Another early upset was Scott Frost who also faired well at the One-Pocket and 10 -Ball events in Mountain View. Scott ended the event with a $900, 4th place finish. Seemingly, “Mad” Max Eberle is cursed by his previous major competitions at Hard Times, taking his third consecutive 3rd place finish at the ‘Home Of Champions’ after losing his battle against the top Filipino money player.
Sunday finals came down to Dennis Orcollo vs. Shane Van Boening. Dennis, after being knocked to the one-loss side by Louis Ulrich on day 1 played an astounding 10 matches to take down the likes of Ernesto Dominguez, Francisco Bustamante, Rodney Morris, Corey Harper, Scott Frost and finally Max Eberle. Shane on the other hand played 6 matches to earn the hot-seat chalking up the names, Justin Logan, Mitch Ellerman, Mike Davis, Francisco Bustamante, Manny Chau and Max Eberle. The final match between these two ‘Pool Gods’ resulted in a spectacular one sided defeat by Dennis over Shane with a final score of 11-3 even though this was only the 2nd time during the entire event that Dennis had played on the “devil” table. Dennis’s victory over Shane was the result of several elements. His ability to adapt to this table he’d never played on was demonstrated by an amazing break shot which left him opportunities to develop easy run outs and tactical safety battles. By also capitalizing on Shane’s mistakes, Dennis was able to put together a few punishing runs and steal enough games and keep the pressure on. Shane’s firepower was little demonstrated in this match, merely because of Dennis’s ability to get almost perfect shape and exhibit several difficult breakouts.
After a final score of 11-3, Dennis and Shane shook hands, the envelopes were passed and the cameras were flashing for an end to one of the most terrific tournaments this year on the west coast. Shane Van Boening in 2nd Place with a payout of $1,800 and Dennis Orcollo reaching the top for $3,000.